Only 3 in 10 unchurched Americans (29%) say a Christian has ever shared with them one-on-one how a person becomes a Christian. Only slightly more say a Christian has told them about the benefits of participating in a local church (33%) or the benefits of becoming a Christian (35%). For 4 in 10 unchurched Americans (40%), they’ve never had a Christian explain any of those things to them.
These are the findings of a recent Lifeway Research study worth our attention. Here are some of my responses to this study and others:
- I’m not surprised 4/10 unchurched Americans have never had anyone tell them how to become a Christian—or the benefits of church participation or becoming a Christian. I grant that I generally live in a Christian world, but I’ve had only two people in my life engage me in a conversation about following Christ. The first was my friend who led me to the Lord. The second was a seatmate on an airplane, and he was seemingly more concerned that I join his denomination than he was about my spiritual condition.
- Nor am I surprised that more unchurched folks have heard about church participation than about Christian conversion. I suspect that’s because it’s much easier for believers to invite others to church than it is to tell them how to get saved. Especially when churches focus on attractional evangelism (which I don’t condemn—see here and here), more folks will invite than evangelize.
- On the other hand, research shows that “82% of the unchurched are open to attending church with a friend or acquaintance”—so, we’re clearly missing some opportunities. Even an invitation to church—which is still not evangelism—could make a difference if more believers would do the inviting. Maybe we should at least start there as we try to move congregations to an outward focus.
- In my anecdotal experience, most churches don’t offer evangelism training—so I’m not convinced believers even know how to share their faith. I would hope that believers would naturally tell their story, but that’s not often the case. We church leaders too often tell them they must evangelize but offer them no training to get there.
- Sam Rainer’s research shows most unchurched would rather hear from a layperson than a minister—but I still argue the pastor must lead the way. No church I’ve known has been more evangelistic than their senior leader has been. His shadow falls long on his congregation, so his shadow needs to be decidedly focused toward doing personal evangelism himself. I suspect Sam and I would not differ on this perspective.
What are your thoughts?